Everything You Should Know About TikTok Algorithm

Published on 23rd of October 2020

For some time, the TikTok algorithm seemed to reside right next to the recipe for Nutella and Coca-Cola. But in mid-2020, today’s hippest social network revealed the mysterious ways in which the algorithm works. And it appears to be as complex as you might expect.

Your location, hashtags, music choices, likes, and all affect the algorithm and as such, the feed and the amount of traction your profile is getting.

The good news is that major brands have already started using this information to boost engagement on TikTok. Why shouldn’t you do the same?

TikTok Algorithm Basics (Per the Company’s Own Account)

Before TikTok officially announced the logic behind the algorithm, there were speculations that the For You page is actually a curated feed.

You’d assume that it’s pulling content relevant to your location, profile, and past engagements. This turned out to be true and there are three key factors that affect what you and others see.

  1. Interactions - this comes down to everything you’ve shared, liked, followed, commented on, and so forth.
  2. Video Information - the details that you add to videos such as hashtags, captions, and sounds.
  3. Account and Device Settings – these are country-specific settings, language, type of device, etc.

The For You page is a recommendation system that accounts for each individual aspect of the above. This means that it populates the For You page with content unique to each user. And the company also puts an emphasis on user interest.

Watching a longer video from start to finish is a good example of high user interest. This level of interaction gets much more weight than, for instance, if the video creator and viewer are from the same country, which TikTok sees as a weak indicator.

The algorithm uses these indicators to rank content for the For You pages of users. This is based on TikTok’s estimation of user interest in particular pieces of content. This is good news for all who wish to come up with viral videos. You don’t have to have thousands of followers for your content to go viral. Just so long as you can get users across the network to show exceptionally high interest.

That said, TikTok did stress that a video from an account with a lot of followers would have a greater chance of attracting more views. But the number of followers and one’s track record of viral content don’t affect the recommendation system directly.

It’s looking like TikTok wants to level the playing field and give everybody an equal chance to attract a massive following. And you can take advantage of the algorithm to increase your chances of showing up on For You pages?

5 Tips to Make TikTok’s Algorithm Work for You

1. Short Snappy Videos

TikTok videos can run up to 60 seconds but it’s best to keep it as short as possible. In general, the audience is more likely to watch full bite-sized videos. This will boost the completion rate of your videos organically and may result in better ranking.

Of course, you will have to get the video content right from the start. An intro that is too long, for example, may drive viewers away. Ideally, you want to introduce a hook within the first few seconds of a video.

And to get the intro right, you may have to work on the beginning of your videos some more.

2. Captions

On TikTok, you’re limited to 150 characters per caption and this includes the hashtags. But this only means that you need to be creative and come up with something engaging. A good caption can go a long way to enticing your audience to watch a video to the end.

A good example would be something along the lines of “it took me XY tries to get this right.” You can come up with a question-based caption and encourage your audience to leave comments. This is useful because user engagement is another critical factor for ranking high on For You pages.

3. Understand Your Audience

Like any other social media platforms, you want to post when your audience is most engaged and active. If they actively engage with your content, this tells the algorithm to push your clips up the rankings. And you can actually get data about your followers’ activity if you sign up for a TikTok Pro account.

The account dashboard’s Follower tab is where you can find out when your followers are most active (under Follower Activity). You can then use the data to create an ideal posting schedule.

4. Promote User Interaction

One clever thing about TikTok is that the network makes cross-platform promotions and content download a breeze. With the download option enabled, your followers can download a video and share it on other social media. A lot of TikTokers are also on Twitter and it might surprise you to find a bunch of TikTok videos there.

Another trick that you may want to apply is keeping the duet feature open. This gives other users a chance to create a video alongside your original content. Again, if enough users find your video duet-worthy, the algorithm will pick that up and boost your ranking.

5. Hashtag Challenges

Challenges are a big deal on TikTok and they may act as a tool to generate new ideas. More importantly, TikTok users love them. This goes double if you can come up with a clever spin-off to a particular challenge.

For more ideas, check out the top videos under the challenge’s hashtag. And if you want to find the most popular challenges, search for them using the Discover option.

Whatever you do, this is a good way to boost video views and get noticed by the algorithm.

Hacking the TikTok Challenge

With a better understanding of how the algorithm works, the way you should approach TikTok is not that dissimilar to other platforms like Instagram. The key is to understand your audience’s behavior and keep churning out killer content.